Utah’s Independent Redistricting Commission Could Change the Legislative Makeup of the Wasatch Back
With the passage of Proposition 4 by Utah voters back in 2018, an independent redistricting commission will help draw the state’s legislative boundaries this year. Redistricting happens once every 10 years -- the boundaries drawn this year will be in place for the next decade.
Looking at any state’s legislative map can be head-scratching. Oftentimes, boundaries seem pretty obvious with rivers or highways delineating one district from another, while sometimes boundaries make little sense at all with neighborhoods split in half and some geographic areas having multiple representatives.
Utah House minority Leader Brian King represents a small portion of Summit County as part of House District 28. He is one of three Representatives and two Senators representing Summit County at the State Legislature. King is the only Democratic legislator representing either Summit or Wasatch County.
King says the way some areas get split up during redistricting is not ideal. For instance, Park City’s municipal boundaries and part of Kimball Junction are represented by Republican Mike Kohler as part of District 54, while the rest of the Snyderville Basin is represented by another Republican, Kera Birkland, as part of District 53. King represents Summit Park in District 28.
For King, splitting up groups of people who largely see themselves as part of one community -- like much of the greater Park City area does -- is not the best outcome of a redistricting process and something he hopes the new independent commission will help solve.
“My hope is, you know, last time we did this in 2011, Summit County was an example of a county which had just an almost perfect population for having its own House District and there were reasons that that didn’t happen and instead Summit got split three ways and Wasatch got split two ways in the House,” King says. “We don’t like to see that. We don’t like to see communities of interest that have common shared values and concerns split up like that, but redistricting is a tough process and sometimes those things happen.”
Utah’s population has also grown by just under 500,000 people in the last 10 years, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. While the number of representatives in the entire state likely won’t change, the boundaries of the districts probably will -- some quite drastically, says King.
“You’re gonna see some significant changes, and I don’t think it will just be tweaking,” he says. “I think that you may very well see Summit go down to having just two representatives or maybe even one. Some people like that and some people don’t. Some people say, ‘look, I’d rather have the availability of three separate representatives in the House of Representatives representing Summit County like right now.’ Right now, we have some Democratic perspective, I like to think that I bring that, the only Democrat representing a portion of either Summit or Wasatch County.”
The seven-member independent redistricting commission will work alongside a 20-person legislative committee in order to present the new boundaries sometime this fall to the entire Utah Legislature. King says he expects the Legislature to convene in special session by the end of 2021 to approve the new boundaries.
The independent commission is a bipartisan group of seven people, while the committee is made up of 15 Republicans and five Democrats.
According to state law, the commission must hold at least seven public hearings during the redistricting process. King says it’s critical the public get involved.
“People ought to follow this, it’s critically important and my hope is that especially individuals in areas like Summit and Wasatch County weigh in and make sure that both the independent redistricting commission and the legislative redistricting committee, both of whom are critical, have input from people about what they prefer and how they’d like to see the redistricting lines work in their area,” says King.
The independent commission’s next public meeting is scheduled for April 27th.